Review Summary: "Your cry for inspiration never reaches ears on distant stars."
There's something so persistently, inanely charming about California
, that both exists in spite of its myriad flaws and somehow makes them more glaring. I don't know what it is. Teasing apart what's nostalgia and what I'm actually enjoying can start to feel like splitting hairs, especially with Blink-182, one of the few bands I'm willing to give a pass for releasing an album as, uh, artistically challenged as California
2016. But when they weren't writing awful hooks with Patrick Stump or aggressively mediocre ballads about home, there were glimmers. The melodies were there, when they could claw their way through the toy monkey production, and Travis was there, and "Cynical" was there so you'd know it wasn't a complete wash. There was some charm to the straightforwardness, the basic pop mentality, the retroness (if I can be so bold as to apply the term 'retro' to a pop-punk band).
It feels almost redundant to complain about how much better this edition is and how the best tracks are bonuses in 2017, but honestly, it's getting ridiculous – do you think Matt Skiba's contractual obligation to leave the best songs off Alkaline Trio albums has carried over to Blink? Yet there's more to the deluxe than just some more good songs: it sounds like Mark, Matt and Travis actually sort of
care again. "6/8" is like when Travis said there would be a post-hardcore song on Neighborhoods
and it was just the last 30 seconds of "Up All Night" except they actually followed through, with a titanic chorus and some honest-to-god Matt screams I didn't dream up for once. "Hey I'm Sorry" is the only song that gets away with the metric fu
cktonne of 'woahohhhhs', because the pre-chorus melody alone is gorgeous enough to justify a lot of cheesiness. "Bottom of the Ocean" sounds like the dance-y backing track from "When Your Heart Stops Beating" got lost on the way home, popped some Xanax and stumbled in on Mark and Matt karaokeing to a Justin Timberlake song. It's probably trash, but insanely listenable trash nonetheless. Of the two songwriters Matt is clearly the more engaged, and even if there's nary a mention of sacrificial virgin ears on here at least he isn't writing about his divorce anymore, right? Mark sticks close to the yellow dotted line throughout, with his storytelling ambitions rarely raised higher than 'meet my friends at the Target curb/I rolled my ankle, Matt just broke his wrist', and his lovable voice never raised at all. At least he snuck a Smiths reference in there, I guess.
The deluxe tracks may swap out a bit of California
's tacky charm for slightly less tacky jams, but the music on display isn't wildly different. Matt is still relegated to hitting high notes buried in the background way more than he should be, Mark still sounds like the chorus of "Bored to Death" applies to him, Feldmann is still just the worst, and everyone listening at home still misses the hell out of Tom. There are some decent suggestions at future development dotted here and there, but the best moments on either edition of this album – "Cynical", "6/8", that goddamn banger of a bridge in "San Diego" – are still the ones that draw most heavily on a history that's gone on longer than any pop-punk band rightfully should, a funny, stupid, bittersweet story that many fans have shared in for the majority of their lives. But maybe trying to tease apart nostalgia and talent is a waste of time, because mining nostalgia as shamelessly and expertly as California
does is a talent in itself.